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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, October 12, 2009
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
New Plays: *
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW: *
Back to The Classics—Ancient & Modern! *
Music In Motion: Theatre Danced, Sung, & Mimed! *
Producers! You Can Save Money with a Cast of One! *
Mono Dramas & Solo Shows: The Wave of the Future? *
BAM's Next Wave 2009 Begins To Surge! *
Paging Robert Lepage! *
EUROPEAN THEATRE PRIZE XI AWARDED QUEBEC'S ROBERT LEPAGE & GERMANY'S PETER ZADEK *
Performing Arts News & Notes: *
Well intentioned Readers & Friends are insisting that Your Scribe "do a Blog."
They suppose this will reduce the length of my comments both about Theatre & about Museums & Galleries on our Companion Site, NYMuseums.com. Not to overlook possible reductions of the Time, Energy, & Effort involved in reporting on so many Essential Events, unpaid & unthanked as I am…
When one is 80+ & recovering from a Subdural Hematoma & severe Bone Breaks & Body Traumas, there should be some Down Time, but this is New York City, so there is something Important & Interesting going on all the time…
As I am currently trying to complete Three Books Online, I would rather spend my limited time on those, for almost every evening & matinée I am at the Theatre, the Dance, or at the Opera, squeezing in the Philharmonic when I can.
During the weekdays—even on some weekends—there are Press Previews for new Museum & Gallery Exhibitions & Shows. These are often "Insider Experiences," which you cannot have once the shows are Open To The Public.
Of my three Books in Gestation, my US Army Memoirs—Ordered To Fort Ord: Drafted & Fucked…—is completed in First Draft.
My Memoir of my Mother's Great Depression Summer Camp Adventure—Mother in Summer: A Month in the Country—is almost completed, except for four crucial chapters.
The most difficult & painful to write—even though eight chapters are finished, with ten more to go—is the Companion Book, Mother in Winter: Nurture vs. Nature.
This deals with the Traumas & Travails of growing up Adopted in a California Small Family Farm Household of Foster Children, Recovering Alcoholics, Mongoloids, Kleptomaniacs, & other Damaged People.
I have waited some fifty years to write these books, so I had better do it now, while my brain is more or less functioning. Falling on my head after photographing the Golden Gate Bridge in July—followed by July & August in SF & NYC Hospitals—has not helped.
So, in this & subsequent Show Notes reports, I'll try to be Blog Brief, but at least make an effort to communicate some of the Excitement & Excellence involved in various productions…
Keith Huff's A STEADY RAIN [****]
Nathan Louis Jackson's BROKE OLOGY [**]
Daniel Goldfarb's THE RETRIBUTIONISTS [**]
Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen's AFTERMATH [****]
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare's HAMLET [****]
John Millington Synge's THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD [*****]
Lennox Robinson's IS LIFE WORTH LIVING? [****]
George S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber's THE ROYAL FAMILY [*****]
BURN THE FLOOR [***]
BLIND LEMON BLUES [***]
ANJOU: A Tale of Horror [****]
Mono Dramas/Solo Shows:
Carrie Fisher in WISHFUL DRINKING [****]
Charlayne Woodard in THE NIGHT WATCHER [****]
Roger Guenveur Smith in FREDERICK DOUGLASS NOW [*****]
Shona Reppe & Puppets in CINDERELLA [****]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
First Irish at 59E59:
Sebastian Barry's THE PRIDE OF PARNELL STREET [***]
Megan Riordan's LUCK [***]
Aron, Caldwell, Haslett, McKeon, & Jenkinson's SPINNING THE TIMES [****]
BAM's Next Wave Festival 2009:
Ex Machina/Robert Lepage's LIPSYNCH [****]
Wm. Forsythe's DECREATION [***]
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Not to be Missed are Daniel Craig & Hugh Jackman in A Steady Rain. Not for the play itself—which is a TV Pilot Construct, consisting of Two oft interrupted Monologues—but for their Dynamic Performances! James Bond can actually Act! Jackman, of course, proves himself once again much more than a Matinée Idol…
The cast of four in Broke ology work very hard with the material they have been given, but it's not easy to breathe Life into what may be both an African American Ghost Play & a Coming of Age Drama, all wrapped up in one lumpy package.
The Retributionists could give the Holocaust a Bad Name as Drama Fodder. Fortunately, it is not set in Anne Frank's Attic, nor in Bergen Belsen. The Basic Idea is to Poison some German POWs in an American Prison Camp to achieve Retribution for Six Million Jewish Concentration Camp Deaths.
This Dramatic Conceit is based on an actual event, as reported in the New York Times. The Prisoners—who may very well have been ordinary Wehrmacht Soldiers, not Gestapo or Waffen SS Death Mill Functionaries—are not seen, writhing in Agony. Actually, no one died, but many got sick…
One could easily sicken watching the Love Triangle of the Central Characters: was the Poisoning done to get someone into bed?
As with The Exonerated—First hand Testimonies of the Unjustly Imprisoned—the Co Authors of Aftermath have interviewed a variety of Displaced & Distraught Iraquis, whose Lives have been Damaged or Ruined by the American Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in their Homeland.
These are Powerful Testimonies, sensitively enacted by the able Ensemble, but will these limited performances be enough to bring Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, or L. Paul Bremer before the International Court in The Hague?
Back to The Classics—Ancient & Modern!
Fortunately, most Educated Americans know how Hamlet comes out: the drama, not the actor… So no one should be on the edge of his or her seat during the current import of the darkish Donmar production from London, with a stop off at Elsinore. There are no Great Dramatic Surprises…
To those who thought Jude Law was only trying to Prove Himself in this All Demanding Role, it must now be apparent that he has studied to Inhabit Hamlet. Law has made the Role his, but in his own way, not that of Lord Olivier or so many other Actor Stars.
But was Law actually listening to himself, when he spoke Hamlet's oft quoted lines of Advice to the Players?
Even as Law used his Hands—as he does vigorously throughout the play—to Describe, to Frame Forms, to Mime, & to Propel the Action Forward, Hamlet/Law nonetheless gave the actors Good Advice: "Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently…"
Law inter acts well with a Competent Cast.
What might he not do, had he some of the Royal Shakespeare's Greats to set him Challenges? He could have profited from more effective Breath Training in his Student Days, as he doesn't have sufficient support to summon up Greater Vocal Power when he really needs it…
Handsome Sean McNall—something of a matinée idol for some Pearl Theatre subscribers—makes a dynamic & charming Christy Mahon in the current revival of John Millington Synge's Playboy of the Western World. Lee Stark is a determined foil as Pegeen Mike.
This handsome production has been energetically staged by J. R. Sullivan, new Artistic Director of the Pearl, which has moved from East 8th Street to City Center, now using the Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II.
The Pearl has long been dedicated to the twin principles of maintaining a Resident Company & Performing Ancient & Modern Classics. Company stalwarts such as Rachel Botchan as the Widow Quin & Brad Cover as Pegeen's Pub owner Father, are joined by some Old Friends & some Pearl Debutants like Ryan G. Metzger, very amusing as Shawn Keogh.
William Butler Yeats—famed Champion of the Irish Theatre & fierce defender of Synge's Playboy—was also briefly represented in Manhattan with Martin Halpern's two One Act Chamber Operas, Purgatory & The Death of Oedipus. Yeats' Irish Lyricism is not easy to set to music…
Speaking of Irish Theatre—especially of the Abbey Theatre—who now remembers its other Founding Patron, Augusta, Lady Gregory? Perhaps her Rising of the Moon is now too dated?
But Jonathan Bank—over at the Mint Theatre—has not forgotten another Abbey Dramatist: Lennox Robinson!
Today, he's virtually Unknown, but there was a time when even Your Scribe was lighting such charming Robinson Irish plays as The Far Off Hills & The Less We Get Together.
Now Bank has directed & produced Robinson's Is Life Worth Living? in a staging that is both engaging & handsome. The dire influence of performing Ibsen's Hedda Gabler as summer theatre fare in a small Irish resort town has Unforeseen Consequences…
Both the Cast & the Stylish 1920s Production are excellent!
That is even more the case with Doug Hughes' High Powered production of The Royal Family!
Designer John Lee Beatty—famed for his super detailed Set Decorations—has outdone himself in adorning every inch of the lavish Cavendish Townhouse with pictures, awards, patterns, posters, objects d'art, lamps, rugs, & furniture.
In fact, the set is so busy, it threatens to Upstage the furiously comic antics of Kaufman & Ferber's Stand Ins for the Fabulous Barrymores.
Among Broadway's Contemporary Theatre Aristocracy, such notables as Rosemary Harris, Tony Roberts, Jan Maxwell, Larry Pine, Reg Rogers, & Ana Gasteyer recreate these fictional Barrymores & Their Circle to perfection, recalling an Era now long gone, never to be recovered.
Years ago, in fact, when Ellis Raab's APA Phoenix Ensemble revived The Royal Family, Rosemary Harris—Raab's then wife—played the daughter of the Mother she now plays.
Music In Motion: Theatre Danced, Sung, & Mimed!
Burn the Floor is wonderfully dynamic & colorful, but it is not a Musical with Songs & Plot. Instead, it is the International Style of Competitive Ballroom Dance!
Not Ginger & Fred. Not Bob Fosse & Gwen Verdon. Something more Contemporary! So Enjoy! That there are almost 20 Producers listed above the Title should tell you something about this show…
Did Blind Lemon Jefferson really create the Blues? The creators of Blind Lemon Blues at the York Theatre—Alan Govenar & Akin Babatunde—suggest he did so, with some 60 Blues songs to animate the evening. Many are compositions of Blind Lemon, but Blind Willie Johnson, Lead Belly, Bessie Tucker, Ida May Mack & Bobbie Cadillac are also reprised. Plus new Blues by Govenar & Babatunde!
For the first two weeks of October, the New York Musical Theatre Festival has been busy showcasing interesting new shows, seeking commercial backing for Broadway or Off Broadway productions. Their Motto: Changing the World 30 Musicals at a Time!
Among the many musicals admired—only one of which Your Scribe had time to see—were Hurricane, Academy, The Happy Embalmer, Cross That River, Under Fire, Judas & Me, The Toymaker, & Lorenzo, inspired by Mozart's Librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, who ultimately taught Italian in Manhattan at Columbia College, as it then was.
[For the Record: Austrian Playwrights have also been fascinated by Da Ponte's Post Mozart Life. When he emigrated to America, he settled first in New Jersey—quite a change from Vienna!—where it's believed he opened a shop, before teaching at Columbia. It's not known if they had Tenure then…
[Thanx to Manuel Garcia's traveling troupe, he was able to see his work on stage in Manhattan! Possibly with Garcia's daughters, later famed as Pauline Girardot & Maria Malibran.
[Austrian Dramatist, Peter Turrini—building on some of these events some seasons ago at the Salzburg Festival—imagined Da Ponte instead Way Out West, in Da Ponte in Santa Fé! This has yet to have a Major US Production…]
The one new musical Your Scribe was able to see was Anjou: A Tale of Horror, which appealed to me even before I saw it & despite its tag title, more appropriate to a B Movie.
This production comes to Manhattan from Mexico City, where it has been fully produced. The talented & attractive young Mexican Cast brought their often dazzling costumes, but not their sets. They sing in Spanish, although these Historic Horrors actually occurred in France.
The Accursed Name of Anjou always catches Your Scribe's attention, as it also has Historians, Novelists, & Playwrights: Think of The Lion in Winter—the Angevin King of England, Henry II, or Shakespeare's Henry V, battling to retrieve his Domains in France, including those brought to Henry II by Eleanore of Aquitane!
There was a time in France—think of the Edict of Nantes!—when both Protestants & Catholics were free to worship as their Differing Faiths dictated.
This was shattered when Protestants were slaughtered on St. Bartholomew's Day, a Massacre instigated by the Queen Mother, Catherine di Medici.
The Massacre is only one of Queen Catalina's deadly intrigues to put her favorite son, Enrique, on the throne, after she has poisoned his two elder brothers.
If you can imagine all this set to very theatrical music, vibrantly performed, this will be a New Musical [especially if it's played in English] you don't want to miss…
Producers! You Can Save Money with a Cast of One!
Mono Dramas & Solo Shows: The Wave of the Future?
Carrie Fisher is a Comic Delight recounting her Chaotic Life + Videos! Some Thoughtful Critics have dissed her for not providing a Deep Analysis of What It All Means, but that's possibly a Cesspool no one should dip a stick into… Your Scribe admires Fisher's aperçu that Celebrity is just staving off eventual Obscurity.
Charlayne Woodard's amusing & touching self referential Mono Dramas in Night Watcher have been work shopped out in the Regions, so the Finished Product is a joy to savor.
Years ago, Roger Guenveur Smith amazed Public Theatre audiences with his Huey P. Newton Story. His astonishing evocation of Frederick Douglass & Negritude now—shown at Irish Arts, in tandem with Cambria, the Irish drama about Douglass in Ireland—is a rapid fire Racial Review to make the Mind reel. How can he remember so clearly all his complex poetic text & deliver it with such speed & ferocity?
The New Victory has launched its new season, with a charming group of Edinburgh Fringe Scottish Shows geared to Kiddies, rather than to Kids & Parents. There's My House, The Man Who Planted Trees, Hansel & Gretel, & Cinderella.
When Your Scribe saw the single set prop on stage at the Duke Theatre, featuring an odd table, with a tiny lamp atop a stepped stand: Omygawd! I saw this four years ago at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!
Yes, indeed! But Shona Reppe is still a wonder, working with some floppy Cinderella Puppets, & telling Cinders' Story—without having to stage the Prince's Grand Ball!
At 59E59, the Season began with First Irish Imports! [Bulgaria & Serbia, where are Your Shows?]
Sebastian Barry's The Pride of Parnell Street, a kind of Dublin Lower Depths, was essentially two side by side Monologues, inter related, rather than inter Acted. Like James Bond & Wolverine's show on Broadway, but without the energy or the interest…
Spinning the Times provided a series of provocative Monologues about modern strategies for Survival in the Land of the Once upon a Time Celtic Tiger.
Megan Riordan' Luck seemed more about Vegas than the Emerald Isle, as her dad was a Master Gambler. The show's Format was Gambling Structured, with Info Options projected on a screen. Megan had also made a Cheese Ball, but Your Scribe had already Eaten At Home…
BAM's Next Wave 2009 Begins To Surge!
Lucky critics were able to see Robert Lepage's Lipsynch in a One day Marathon of its three sections.
Your Scribe, however, was lucky in quite a different way: three evenings of Food Overkill at Junior's, followed by each of the optically challenging sequences of Lipsynch at BAM's Harvey Theatre.
Lipsynch focuses on Voices—as distinct from Speech or Language—with Nine Stories revealed in Nine Hours, with Nine Protagonists, "whose lives answer, relay, & echo each other."
As this report is intended to be naught more than some kind of BLOG, rather than an outline of the Work in Performance, here's a Recycling of what Your Scribe wrote two years ago in Thessaloniki, when Lepage showed elements of Lipsynch to an International Audience of Critics & Theatre People…
Paging Robert Lepage!
It was not possible to present an entire evening of one of Robert Lepage's Festival Oriented touring productions. But Lepage did provide some videos and—more importantly—some actual excerpts from previous works and Lipsynch, a Work in Progress.
Over the years, Lepage's Quebec City based Ex Machina ensemble has won an international reputation. This is hardly surprising, as his individual works are essentially festival touring productions, often funded by a consortium of festivals.
Having visited his Quebec Firehouse HQ, Your Scribe readily understood that Lepage could hardly play eight weeks in his home town. There isn't audience enough. Ex Machina needs to be on tour.
Its title deliberately recalls the Deus ex Machina of the Classic Greek Theatre: the "God out of the Machine." What that means is that Lepage often depends on some kind of Mechanical Contrivance or Construction through which to project his unique vision, whether it be a Hamlet or some unusual Cultural Concept.
Interviewed for the Conference, Lepage pointed out—as he often does—that all his work is a process of discovering who he is. That includes Lepage performing in some of his pieces.
For his audiences in Thessaloniki, Lepage appeared in a curious work: He was lying on the stage floor, with a row of theatre seats lying on their backs against a vertical screen. A water cooler was also lying on its back on the floor.
Lepage's movements on the floor—projected on the screen above—made it seem that he was able to float & writhe in the air above the theatre seats. This was a Novel Experience, but it obviously won't fill an evening in the theatre…
In line with the Premio Europa per il Teatro's Old Age Theme, Lepage also provided some scenes that powerfully evoked both Age & Illness. He showed a disquieted doctor explaining the risks of operation for a Brain Tumor to an afflicted young woman.
Cross sections of brain tissue were shown on a screen behind the performers. Then Michelangelo's famed fresco from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling—of God stretching out his finger to the Naked Adam—was projected in full color.
Suddenly, the left half of the fresco—featuring Adam—vanished. Only the image of God & His Cherubs, enveloped in his great maroon cloak, remained.
In an instant, the outlines of the brain in cross section overlaid the fresco: an Exact Match!
Had Michelangelo deliberately planned this Concealed Revelation of the Mind of God vs. the Mind of Man?
Or was this only an Accident: that Robert Lepage made the Connection?
Michel Vaïs—General Secretary of the AITC—curated the major discussion of Lepage & his Work. Especially impressive were the insights of Karen Fricker, an American at Trinity College, Dublin.
Also provocative were the presentations of France's Ludovic Fouquet and Canada's Chantal Hébert & Don Rubin—who was once a student of Your Scribe's, long, long ago at Hofstra College on Long Island.
To fill the gap left by the cancellation of the Peter Zadek Experts [Zadek was "too busy" in Berlin, to come to Greece to accept this honor!], a small army of Lepage Experts testified on the following day!
Lepage in Edinburgh: Some seasons ago, Robert Lepage was to open the Edinburgh Festival. Unfortunately, some special screw or bolt had broken in the Ex Machina mechanism that was essential to the operation of his production.
No spare, or replacement, had been brought along from Quebec. There was no time to fly one in for the planned premiere that evening. The entire engagement had to be cancelled. Festival Director Brian McMaster was furious.
So you do have to wonder about the Essential Human Theatricality of a work that has to depend on Mechanics, instead of standing alone with one or two actors…
For want of a Nail, the War was Lost! In this case, the Edinburgh Festival survived…
Thessaloniki Lepage Bonus:
Here is more of the Report on the European Theatre Prize honoring Lepage…
EUROPEAN THEATRE PRIZE XI AWARDED QUEBEC'S ROBERT LEPAGE & GERMANY'S PETER ZADEK
Last spring in Turin/Torino, Harold Pinter was the distinguished winner of the Premio Europa per il Teatro, or European Theatre Prize. This year, there were two winners announced: Canada's Robert Lepage—who works out of an historic fire house in Quebec City—and the veteran Peter Zadek, currently at Bertolt Brecht's historic Berliner Ensemble.
This means that—despite the resounding endorsement of the European Union for this impressive theatre initiative—you do not have to create theatre solely within the expanding boundaries of the EU in order to be nominated for this prestigious prize.
Thus far, the only North American to win the prize is Robert Wilson—who won it in Edition V. But then Wilson has worked widely & often in Europe, less frequently in the United States. This unfortunate state of Cultural Affairs has continued, even though his astounding career was launched at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Notably with Einstein on the Beach—with music by Philip Glass, followed by A Letter to Queen Victoria…
Other winners have included Peter Brook, Pina Bausch, Luca Ronconi, Lev Dodin, Giorgio Strehler, & Ariane Mnouchkine. But giving the award to these remarkable men & women—creative geniuses all—has been almost in the nature of saluting their long careers in European Theatre. Virtually, Lifetime Achievement Awards…
So much for Theatre Activity in Macedonian Greece! Now Back to BAM!
William—Billy, to some—Forsythe is the current Fair Haired Avant Garde Choreographer in Europe, although born in America. He was made Chief of the Frankfurt Ballet, where John Neumeier had previously distinguished himself.
But Forsythe's Choreographies were Too Cutting Edge for Frankfurt's Culture Mavens, so they disbanded the City Ballet & its funding, leaving Forsythe free standing.
Fortunately, he had Deep Pocketed Patrons to save him & his fledgling Ensemble, now based at Hellerau, near Dresen, once home to Jacques Dalcroze & other Moderns.
But Forsythe's Decreation—just shown at BAM—is less about Choreography & Dance than it is about Self Indulgence, with some Spoken Inter Actions that recall Richard Schechner's Dionysus in '69—a very long time ago. To what purpose a Commercial TV Video Camera on stage? Just to show some legs on a panel in front of a podium?
Performing Arts News & Notes:
Want to hear Hal Prince talk about The Sound of Broadway Music?
In the Bruno Walter Aud of the Lincoln Center Perf Arts Libe, he'll be on a panel with John Kander, Sheldon Harnick, & others at 6 pm Monday, 19 October. There are other panels at other times on both 19 October & 2 November. Free! Call 212 642 0142 for Info!
Also at the Walter Auditorium, the Theatre Library Association—whose membership appears to be dwindling—presented its Annual Book Awards: the George Freedley Memorial Award to Jayna Brown, for Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers & the Shaping of the Modern.
The actual TLA Award went to Mark Harris for Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies & the Birth of the New Hollywood. Harris was fascinating describing his Thesis & how he researched it in Libraries!
In the Program Bios, Harris described himself as a Yale Grad now living in NYC, with his husband, Tony Kushner…
Longtime colleagues & friends of Your Scribe, Louis Rachow & Robert Taylor, were also honored.
But it was disturbing to learn that special Theatre Library Collections are now being dispersed or closed down. The UCLA Theatre Library, we were told, faces Closure.
As significant deposits from Your Scribe's research on various projects—notably the book on Jack Cole—have been given to UCLA, this was Not Good News!
Nonetheless, TLA's Irene Dash tells me her new book, Shakespeare & the American Musical, will be out in January 2010, published by Univ. of Indianan Press!
The American Theatre Critics Association—ATCA—also had its Mini Meeting in Manhattan—with membership also dwindling & Out of Work Print Critics wondering who will pay them for offering their Opinions On line in a Blog? Good Question!
There were Panels on Musical Theatre—a tie in with the 30 Musicals Festival—& the Perils of Show Development & Commercial Production.
At ATCA's Sardi's Celebrity Brunch, Your Scribe was fortunate to have Tony Roberts as a table mate. Also on hand were Jeff Daniels, John Glover, & other Luminaries.
My friend & colleague Matthew Michaels provided effective stage lighting—with Limited Resources—at the Joyce SoHo for Catherine Gallant's interesting survey of choreographers: 20th Century Dance Party!
As Your Scribe has worked & studied with Original Isadora Duncan Acolytes, it was fascinating to see some of Isadora's Choreographies revived. Also on view: choreographies of José Limon & Anna Sokolow!
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